Dental tourism in Asia has seen a steady growth in the last decade with countries such as Thailand and Vietnam becoming the hub for foreign patients seeking dental care. Taking into account political stability and affordability of healthcare, the likes of Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan have become a magnet for dental tourism in the region.
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Just as South Korea attracts those seeking cosmetic surgery, particularly the Chinese, other Asian countries have become known for other specific medical treatments.
Cambodians are known to opt for neighbouring countries to seek healthcare because of the lack of faith in the existing medical sector in the country, but confidence in Khmer dentistry tells a different story. With Thailand and Malaysia ramping up efforts to promote themselves as a more attractive option for medical treatment seekers, Cambodia’s dental sector has been enjoying a healthy number of what are now known as health tourists.
The phenomenon was perhaps given impetus by the 2012 British comedy The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel about a group of UK retirees who travelled to India for cheap treatment for a variety of ailments.
Cambodia boasts low rates of dental fees and established clinics, including the likes of Pachem Dental and Roomchang, which have begun attracting patients from other countries such as the US and Australia.
What would normally cost $3,000 overseas such as having a crown fitted would only cost half the price in Cambodia. Roomchang Dental clinic treats patients from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Britain because they can combine the trip with sightseeing while taking advantage of advanced dental technology and skilled practitioners.
Pachem dental clinic sees a majority of their international clients coming from places like Australia, the United States, China, England, Canada, Japan, Russia, Germany, France, Ireland, Poland, New Zealand and South Korea.
Pachem Chief Executive Officer Nary Keuk says many Cambodians go abroad for health checkups and medical treatment. However, when it comes to dental care, most are aware and even proud of the quality of dentistry available in the country.
“It is not clear to us how many dental tourists visit Cambodia to receive care year-on-year. However approximately 15 percent of our customers come from overseas. Several patients coming in from abroad also visit our branch in Siem Reap seeking dental treatment,” she added. According to one report, Malis Dental Care says 30 percent of its revenue comes from treating foreigners. The Japanese dental clinic founder, Dr Motomi Minemura, said patients flying in come to get a crown, filling or implant at competitive prices, using the rest of their savings to enjoy a vacation in the Kingdom.
Dr Minemura in the report also stated that the rise in foreign dental patients is attributed to word of mouth. “The dental care segment in Cambodia is more advanced relative to other segments in the medical field. Dental clinics such as Pachem are known for providing high-quality dental care and upholding international standards,” says Keuk.
Pachem was certified with the ISO 9001-2008 standards in 2011, an endorsement of its high quality and safety standards of service, furthering its reputation globally.
Keuk also believes Cambodia prices are significantly lower than costs in the countries from where their overseas patients travel.
“As an illustration, one of the most popular treatments that our foreign customers seek are dental implants. While we source our dental implants from exceptional manufacturers such as the Straumann Group in Germany and OSSTEM Implant in South Korea, the price points that we are able to offer our customers are significantly lower than the same or comparable treatment options available in countries such as Australia and the US,” Keuk says.
The Dental Council of Cambodia, which operates under the aegis of the Ministry of Health, has played an important role in promoting dental tourism through training and workshops in order to continue to improve the quality of the sector in the country.
Furthermore, Keuk says the council has played an active role in regulating the profession through recognition of clinics that operate in conformity with the professional standards and code of ethics as determined by the body.
Some of the more popular services that the dental sector has seen to attract foreign patients include dental implants, dental crowns and preparation of dentures among others. Pachem Dental Clinic believes that it’s usually these services that would cost twice as much or more because of the significantly higher costs of specialised labour in countries such as Australia and US.